October 20, 2010

Awesome in Australia, insipid in India

Captains with the best and worst win-loss records in a particular country

Ricky Ponting has led Australia in 73 Tests, and by the end of the Ashes he will have moved past Clive Lloyd on the list of most capped Test captains. Ponting doesn't need to move past anyone on the list of most successful captains, though, for he's already six clear of Steve Waugh's 41 wins in second place. Unlike Waugh, however, not one of Ponting's 47 wins as Australia captain have come in India, where his record is five defeats and two draws in seven Tests spanning three tours. The closest he came to victory was in Mohali 2010, when Australia failed to take the last Indian wicket before VVS Laxman pulled off the tensest of heists.

Ponting's seven Tests without victory in India isn't the most for a captain with a winless record in a country. Mike Gatting led England in 11 home Tests between 1986 and 1988 without winning one. He led against India, New Zealand, Pakistan and West Indies, losing three Tests and drawing eight. Gatting's away record was better, if a little draw-heavy, with two wins, two defeats and eight draws. The two victories were in Australia, though, and won the Ashes in 1986-87, which more than made up for Gatting's poor home record. No England captain has won in Australia since.

Two leading allrounders of their respective times, Garry Sobers and Kapil Dev, had rather unsuccessful home records as captain. Both led in 20 home Tests and won only two. Sobers' home run started superbly, with two wins and a draw in his first three games during Australia's 1965 tour. He lost three and drew 14 of his last 17 home Tests. Kapil's only victories as captain in India were a brace of innings wins against Sri Lanka in 1986-87. That apart, India lost four, drew 13 and tied one of Kapil's 18 other home games as captain.

Highest percentage of matches without a win as captain in a country - Tests (minimum 7 matches)
Player Host Country Span Mat Won Draw Tied Lost %
MW Gatting (Eng) England 1986-1988 11 0 8 0 3 100.00
AD Nourse (SA) South Africa 1948-1950 10 0 4 0 6 100.00
BC Lara (WI) South Africa 1998-2004 9 0 1 0 8 100.00
JR Reid (NZ) England 1958-1965 8 0 1 0 7 100.00
AW Greig (Eng) England 1975-1976 8 0 5 0 3 100.00
IT Botham (Eng) England 1980-1981 8 0 6 0 2 100.00
SM Gavaskar (India) Pakistan 1982-1984 8 0 5 0 3 100.00
SP Fleming (NZ) Australia 1997-2004 8 0 4 0 4 100.00
A Ranatunga (SL) India 1990-1997 7 0 3 0 4 100.00
RT Ponting (Aus) India 2004-2010 7 0 2 0 5 100.00
JR Reid (NZ) New Zealand 1956-1965 14 1 7 0 6 92.85
HW Taylor (SA) South Africa 1913-1923 13 1 5 0 7 92.30
A Flower (Zim) Zimbabwe 1994-1999 11 1 5 0 5 90.90
GS Sobers (WI) West Indies 1965-1972 20 2 15 0 3 90.00
N Kapil Dev (India) India 1983-1987 20 2 13 1 4 90.00
RB Kanhai (WI) West Indies 1973-1974 10 1 6 0 3 90.00
KR Rutherford (NZ) New Zealand 1993-1995 10 1 3 0 6 90.00
ADR Campbell (Zim) Zimbabwe 1996-2002 10 1 5 0 4 90.00
Habibul Bashar (Ban) Bangladesh 2004-2007 10 1 2 0 7 90.00
BE Congdon (NZ) New Zealand 1973-1975 8 1 4 0 3 87.50

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Most of the captains with the highest percentage of matches lost in a country suffered those defeats in Australia. Jock Cameron led South Africa on a five-Test tour of Australia in 1931-32 during which the visitors were whitewashed. Since then, Jimmy Adams, Mohammad Yousuf and Andrew Flintoff have also led their teams in five Tests there and got whipped in all of them.

Sixteen of the 25 entries in the table of captains with the greatest percentage of defeats in a country are those who've been beaten in Australia. The earliest is Archie MacLaren, who captained England in eight Tests in Australia between 1897 and 1902 and lost six of them.

Highest percentage of matches lost as captain in a country - Tests (minimum 5 matches)
Player Host Country Span Mat Won Draw Tied Lost %
Khaled Mashud (Ban) Bangladesh 2002-2004 6 0 0 0 6 100.00
T Taibu (Zim) Zimbabwe 2004-2005 6 0 0 0 6 100.00
HB Cameron (SA) Australia 1931-1932 5 0 0 0 5 100.00
DI Gower (Eng) West Indies 1986-1986 5 0 0 0 5 100.00
JC Adams (WI) Australia 2000-2001 5 0 0 0 5 100.00
Mohammad Yousuf (Pak) Australia 2004-2010 5 0 0 0 5 100.00
A Flintoff (Eng) Australia 2006-2007 5 0 0 0 5 100.00
BC Lara (WI) South Africa 1998-2004 9 0 1 0 8 88.88
JR Reid (NZ) England 1958-1965 8 0 1 0 7 87.50
GN Yallop (Aus) Australia 1978-1979 7 1 0 0 6 85.71
Wasim Akram (Pak) Australia 1995-1999 6 1 0 0 5 83.33
Mohammad Ashraful (Ban) Bangladesh 2008-2009 6 0 1 0 5 83.33
PF Warner (Eng) South Africa 1906-1906 5 1 0 0 4 80.00
PW Sherwell (SA) Australia 1910-1911 5 1 0 0 4 80.00
AER Gilligan (Eng) Australia 1924-1925 5 1 0 0 4 80.00
J Ryder (Aus) Australia 1928-1929 5 1 0 0 4 80.00
GC Grant (WI) Australia 1930-1931 5 1 0 0 4 80.00
HF Wade (SA) South Africa 1935-1936 5 0 1 0 4 80.00
L Amarnath (India) Australia 1947-1948 5 0 1 0 4 80.00
FR Brown (Eng) Australia 1950-1951 5 1 0 0 4 80.00

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There have been several captains with undefeated records in a particular country, most of them at home. Mike Brearley was unbeaten as England captain in 19 home Tests, winning 12 and drawing the rest between 1977 and 1981. No captain has been undefeated in a country in more.

Clive Lloyd, however, is the only captain to have led in more than ten matches in an overseas country and maintained an unbeaten record. He did it 14 Tests in England between 1976 and 1984. Lloyd never captained West Indies against Brearley's England though. His first tour of the country was when Tony Greig was made to grovel during West Indies 3-0 victory in the five-match series in 1976. Ian Botham was captain of England when West Indies won 1-0 in 1980 and it was David Gower who suffered the humiliation of a 5-0 thrashing in 1984.

Highest percentage of matches undefeated as captain in a country - Tests (minimum 7 matches)
Player Host Country Span Mat Won Draw Tied Lost %
JM Brearley (Eng) England 1977-1981 19 12 7 0 0 100.00
CH Lloyd (WI) England 1976-1984 14 9 5 0 0 100.00
SM Pollock (SA) South Africa 2000-2003 13 10 3 0 0 100.00
NJ Contractor (India) India 1960-1962 10 2 8 0 0 100.00
AH Kardar (Pak) Pakistan 1955-1956 9 3 6 0 0 100.00
CA Walsh (WI) West Indies 1994-1997 9 2 7 0 0 100.00
Zaheer Abbas (Pak) Pakistan 1984-1984 8 3 5 0 0 100.00
Wasim Akram (Pak) Pakistan 1993-1999 8 5 3 0 0 100.00
MC Cowdrey (Eng) West Indies 1960-1968 7 1 6 0 0 100.00
DB Close (Eng) England 1966-1967 7 6 1 0 0 100.00
JG Wright (NZ) New Zealand 1988-1990 7 2 5 0 0 100.00
GC Smith (SA) West Indies 2005-2010 7 4 3 0 0 100.00
Javed Miandad (Pak) Pakistan 1980-1990 22 10 11 0 1 95.45
GP Howarth (NZ) New Zealand 1980-1985 17 8 8 0 1 94.11
SM Gavaskar (India) India 1978-1985 29 7 20 0 2 93.10
SR Waugh (Aus) Australia 1999-2004 29 22 5 0 2 93.10
CH Lloyd (WI) West Indies 1976-1984 24 13 9 0 2 91.66
IVA Richards (WI) West Indies 1984-1991 24 15 7 0 2 91.66
MS Dhoni (India) India 2008-2010 12 9 2 0 1 91.66
RT Ponting (Aus) Australia 2004-2010 35 28 4 0 3 91.42

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Brian Close's record as captain in England - seven Tests, six wins and one draw - appears in both the table above and below. He is 10th out of 12 captains who've never lost in a particular country, and is also third among those with the best win percentage in a country - 85.71% at home.

No one, however, has a better record in more countries than Ponting. He's won five out of six Tests as captain in South Africa, when they were formidable hosts against all other teams. He's won four out of five matches in New Zealand, the other was drawn. And at home, Ponting's led Australia in 28 wins out of 35 Tests, and only three have been lost. He has impressive records in Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh too. He's never captained Australia in Pakistan and has three wins to go with five defeats in England. It's only in India that Ponting had the chance to win as captain and never managed to. And it's likely to stay that way.

Highest percentage of matches won as captain by host country - Tests (qualification: 5 matches)
Player Host Country Span Mat Won Draw Tied Lost %
WW Armstrong (Aus) Australia 1920-1921 5 5 0 0 0 100.00
FMM Worrell (WI) West Indies 1962-1962 5 5 0 0 0 100.00
DB Close (Eng) England 1966-1967 7 6 1 0 0 85.71
MS Atapattu (SL) Sri Lanka 2004-2005 6 5 1 0 0 83.33
RT Ponting (Aus) South Africa 2006-2009 6 5 0 0 1 83.33
RT Ponting (Aus) Australia 2004-2010 35 28 4 0 3 80.00
GHS Trott (Aus) Australia 1897-1898 5 4 0 0 1 80.00
PW Sherwell (SA) South Africa 1906-1906 5 4 0 0 1 80.00
JWHT Douglas (Eng) South Africa 1913-1914 5 4 1 0 0 80.00
HL Collins (Aus) Australia 1924-1925 5 4 0 0 1 80.00
DR Jardine (Eng) Australia 1932-1933 5 4 0 0 1 80.00
VY Richardson (Aus) South Africa 1935-1936 5 4 1 0 0 80.00
AL Hassett (Aus) South Africa 1949-1950 5 4 1 0 0 80.00
JE Cheetham (SA) South Africa 1953-1954 5 4 1 0 0 80.00
RT Ponting (Aus) New Zealand 2005-2010 5 4 1 0 0 80.00
SM Pollock (SA) South Africa 2000-2003 13 10 3 0 0 76.92
SR Waugh (Aus) Australia 1999-2004 29 22 5 0 2 75.86
MS Dhoni (India) India 2008-2010 12 9 2 0 1 75.00
AL Hassett (Aus) Australia 1950-1953 14 10 1 0 3 71.42
A Shrewsbury (Eng) Australia 1884-1887 7 5 0 0 2 71.42

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Travis Basevi is a cricket statistician and UK Senior Programmer for Cricinfo and other ESPN sports websites. George Binoy is an Assistant Editor at ESPNcricinfo